Perhaps the greatest tragedy that is constantly playing out in our declining St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon is the tremendous sediment infill covering its once white sands, seagrasses, and benthic communities. This began heavily in the 1920s with the connection of the St Lucie Canal (C-44) connecting Lake Okeechobee to the South Fork of the St Lucie River, and then increased in the 1950s and beyond with the construction of canals C-23, C-24 and C-25.
It must also be noted that the St Lucie River/SIRL underwent great changes when the St Lucie Inlet was opened permanently by local pioneers at the encouragement of Capt Henry Sewall in 1892. (Historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow) Prior to that time, the Southern Indian River Lagoon and St Lucie River had been “fresh” —-fresh and brackish waters and their communities of plants and animals “came and went” with nature’s opening and closing of the “Gilbert’s Bar Inlet” over thousands of years….
Since 1892 the St Lucie River has been a permanent brackish water “estuary…” and until the opening of the St Lucie Canal was teeming with fish and wildlife and considered the “most bio-diverse estuary in North America.” (Gilmore 1974)
Anyway, today we have a very special guest, and one of my favorite people in the world, Dr Gary Goforth, to share with us information on 2015 sediment statistics entering the St Lucie River from C-44, our most damaging canal. (DEP 2001:(http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/C-44%20Canal%20.pdf)
Dr Goforth recently sent out an email, and I ask him if I could share the information; he agreed. He states:
“The pollutant that has been consistently left out of discussions is the sediment load to the estuaries from Lake Okeechobee – over 2 million pounds to the St. Lucie River and Estuary in 2015 alone; almost 4 million pounds to the Caloosahatchee Estuary.” (Dr Gary Goforth)
Isn’t that awful? “We” are filling the river in….smothering it.
The slides Dr Goforth included are the following:
Please click on image above to read the numbers. Mind boggling!
This second and complicated image below shows “flows” into the estuaries from Lake O into the St Lucie, Caloosahatchee, and to the Everglades Agricultural Area. Generally speaking, the Army Corp of Engineers in discussions with the South Florida Water Management District, began releasing into the St Lucie River January 16, 2015 until late May/early June. About 3 weeks ago.
Recently our river waters have looked very beautiful and blue near Sewall’s Point and the Southern Indian River Lagoon and water quality reports have been more favorable. Nonetheless the river, especially in the South Fork and wide St Lucie River, is absolutely impaired as there is not much flushing of these areas and the sediment infill is tremendous. The seagrasses around Sewall’s Point and Sailfish remain sparse and algae covered when viewed by airplane. Blue waters does not mean the estuary is not suffering!
Months ago I wrote a blog, that is linked below, focusing on south Sewall’s Point’s river bottom infill history, and depths that have gone from 19, 15, and 14 feet in 1906, to 4, 8, and 7 in 2014—and looking on the Stuart side, north of Hell’s Gate, the 1906 map shows 10, 8 and 12 feet and a 2014 NOAA map reads 2; 3; and 4 feet!
Insane….so many changes!
Our government has filled and dredged our precious river…elements of this inputting sediment become MUCK…..
I’ll end with this:
The River Kidz say it best, although my mother didn’t approve of the tone: 🙂
For interest, I am going to include two more images Dr Goforth included in his email on sediment loading; please click on image to see details.
Thank you Dr Gary Goforth for sharing you expertise on the science of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, Lake Okeechobee and Everglades. Please check out Dr Goforth’s website here:((http://garygoforth.net))
FDEP North Fork Aquatic Preserve: (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/northfork/resources/physical.htm)
Former Blog post about depths of St Lucie River, JTL: (http://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2014/06/04/1906-2014-water-depth-changes-in-the-st-lucie-riverindian-river-lagoon/)